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Cerebral Palsy - What Happens

All people who have cerebral palsy (CP) have some problems with body movement and posture. But many babies don't show signs of CP at birth. Parents and caregivers may notice the first signs of CP. For example, the baby may not roll over, sit, crawl, or walk at the expected ages.

Signs of CP may become more obvious as the child grows. Some developmental problems may not appear until after a baby's first year. The brain injury that causes CP doesn't get worse over time. But its effects can appear, change, or become more severe as the child gets older.

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How CP may affect your child

How much a child is able to move around and do things depends on the type of CP the child has and how much of his or her body is affected. The way CP affects a child also depends on the child's level of intellectual disability, if any, and whether he or she has other complications or other medical conditions.

Most people who have CP have a type of spastic cerebral palsy. This can affect the whole body but may only affect parts of the body in some children. For example, a child with spastic cerebral palsy may have symptoms mostly in one leg or on one side of the body. Most children usually learn ways to adapt to their movement problems, like using special devices and equipment to move around.

Total body cerebral palsy causes the most severe problems. Many of those affected are not able to take care of themselves, either because of severe physical disabilities or intellectual disability. But some people can live on their own with the help of family members, health care aides, or both.

Complications of CP

Some children with CP may have complications, such as seizures. Other medical conditions, such as vision or hearing problems, are often associated with CP. Sometimes these conditions are known right away. In other cases, they aren't found until a child gets older.

Adults with CP are at risk for heart and lung disease. For example, severe CP causes problems with eating. If food is inhaled into the lungs, the risk of lung infection (pneumonia) increases.

Living with CP

Just like people who have normal physical development, people who have CP have social and emotional concerns throughout their lives. Because their physical limitations may add to these concerns, people who have CP need the awareness and consideration of others.

Most adults with the mild or moderate form—and some with the severe form—live independently and have jobs. Others live and work with some level of assistance. Opportunities for independent living and employment for adults with CP have improved, thanks to better home support services and advances in technology, such as computers to assist with speech, powered wheelchairs, and other devices.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 20, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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